11th Sunday in Ordinary Time “B” – Fr. Rick Sherman Homily June 13, 2021
Ez 17:22-24; 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34
Mark 4 Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
The older I get the more I can appreciate just how little control I have had over my life during the past decades. True, I have had free will and have had to make many decisions based on my best judgement that came from the instruction of elders, study and life experience. But I had little or no control over natural forces, genetics, good health, people I’ve met along the way and the historical events of my time. It’s easy to see how we are mostly seeds that have to participate with the soil, the rain, the weeds and the care of the farmer in order to be at all fruitful. And then it can be difficult to quantify too specifically just how much fruit we are producing. Life’s journey is long for many of us and full of routine and seemingly insignificant activities. At many times in life we might pause and wonder just what the heck our lives are about.
Life is kind of like the land that ‘of its own accord yield fruit, first the blade then the ear, the full grain in the ear.’ One of the great values of having a religion, especially Christianity, is that we are assured that there is much more going on than we could ever understand. AND best of all, there is a benevolent God in charge of it all who wants us to be happy with Him forever in paradise. One’s personal faith and the participation in a well-formed faith community can get us through anything and help us to avoid despair during the most difficult challenges of life. I would suspect that everyone sitting in the church today already knows this on some level and that’s why you are here in the first place.
Good religion and healthy, holy faith communities help us straddle the precarious balance between making good decisions in a timely way and waiting on God’s providence. This mysterious balance will eventually allow us to experience more joy and peace and love than we could have ever hoped for on our own.
Of course the mustard seed in the parable today is not just about our individual lives and journeys, but indeed it is about the Kingdom of God. The Church itself started out very small with a tiny group of often very bewildered disciples. They could have never foreseen a Church two thousand years in the future, with over a billion members, stretched over continents they had never even heard of. Most of the disciples, most of the time likely had little idea the effect their daily exercises of learning and following Christ’s teaching would have on the world. Like us, they would have been completely overwhelmed if they knew all of what was really going on in the world. I often thank God for my relative ignorance and naiveté.
Fr. Daniel Mueggenborg identifies 3 main steps in this parable. 1) the miracle of the seed itself which when planted seems to grow of its own accord. 2) the initial smallness of the seed as compared to the enormity of the fully mature plant that springs from the earth. And 3) the small seed grows slowly to maturity over time in order to achieve a purpose. A purpose of fruit bearing within a large harvest that assists all the rest of Creation.
This parable can remind us that we are all important parts of this harvest, especially when life has us feeling insignificant or even worthless. It also reminds us that the true maturity to which we are called just takes time. Nothing we can do or not do can actually speed up or even slow down the coming of the Kingdom, even though our participation is essential. Our maturity and faithfulness can definitely affect our happiness and peace and also affect the happiness and peace experienced by others as we participate in God’s plan.
Again, the balance is between not trying to over control the process, and also not becoming complacent. I have often been reminded in my church ministries that ‘the Church moves in centuries, not minutes or even weeks.’ This can often allow us to just kick the can down the road and let the next generation or two do the serious study and teaching. Saint Mother Teresa’s line is often quoted when she is credited with say, “The Lord calls us to be faithful, not necessarily successful.” This is a very wise point, but we should be careful in using it unless we are working daily in the poverty and destitution of downtown Calcutta. St. Francis of Assisi allegedly said something like, “Preach constantly, when necessary use words.” These words were those of a man who gave up a worldly fortune to live a life of utter simplicity, fraternity and teaching while traveling around the country side…. In sandals… while begging for food… and enduring much ridicule and rejection along the way. Certainly Saints Mother Teresa and Francis, to name just a couple of saints who enjoy world renown, probably never saw themselves as anything but a little seed trying to be faithful in their day to day lives.
I know most of the members of our community do and have done countless hours and even years of faithful service in our little parish as well as in the wider Kane County community. I suspect none of you consciously moved to Kanab in order to contribute to the enormous job of building the Kingdom of God; yet, the impact you have had living in a relatively poor county that regularly hosts a growing international wave of visitors is incalculable. This whole landscape speaks of the enormity of God’s Kingdom, especially in the silence of its unspoiled simplicity.
The challenge before us, perhaps, is to accept an even larger role as elders who can help interpret our times within the scope of God’s plan. I hope to provide some summer opportunities to help us understand our individual and national histories more carefully.
But for now the Eucharist is calling us to become ONE and to read the signs of our times through the light of faith…..